by Andrew Hallam
reviewed on PC
Can't See The Forest For The Trees
The first NVA mission pits your small squad of four, which you will follow through most of the campaign, against an entire base full of US troops. As can be expected, this base comes complete with machine gun nests lining the barbed wire walls, and three Huey choppers equipped with rocket launchers on stand by. Your task is to infiltrate the base and steal a mode of transport out of the area. You can see how this is going to be more than a slight problem, especially when your men seem to have trouble targeting enemy units unless you directly click on the buggers yourself, or when finding the enemy in the first place amongst the mass of jungle is a task in itself. The very essence of the Vietnam War is not captured either. While enemies do hide in trees to ambush you, the surprise of the ambush is lost as every unit, enemy or otherwise, is displayed at all times on the handy mini-map. There is no sense of fear when you know where the next enemy is coming from, the only problem is finding the guy to click on him in the mass of trees.
Stealth is also a major problem. While it is meant to be one of the main aspects of the game, it is rather difficult to act out when your only means of a stealth kill (believe me killing enemies to get by is a necessity) is either a combat knife or relying on the one person in your squad of four who had the foresight to bring a silenced weapon. Melee combat has never been easy or a particularly good thing in MoW so you often find your squad members getting so close that they end up bumping into the enemy. This causes a lot of confusion for the seemingly clumsy squad member who then decides to paint the surrounding forest a shade of colour that I like to call 'Hint of Brain' as the enemy proceeds to open fire.
The AI not only ruins the stealth mechanic due to having X-ray vision and an internal radar that makes it near impossible to kill them silently, but at a distance they contradict their over-the-top vigilance by being surprisingly dumb. If you use your sniper (the only person who seems to be able to shoot further than 40 meters) to kill someone who has a buddy close by, then the one you left alive will either completely ignore the kill or run around his set patrol path for a minute before returning to a state of blissful ignorance. Another major factor is that the most prominent vehicle of any Vietnam War game, helicopters, are just bad. It is hard to overstate how rushed the animations and overall gameplay mechanics for the choppers appear to be, with them moving in a rather 'robotic' way and just being generally overpowered. I realise the irony of that last statement but while this is a game that tries to be realistic, everything in Assault Squad had it's counter unit. Helicopters can decimate anything in mere seconds and just do not feel 'alive'. They move effortlessly around the map and are able to stop and turn on a dime so much so that it feels more like a Terminator is piloting the aircraft rather than a human being.
For What It's Worth
Admittedly, 1C are to be commended for trying to break the mould once again with Men of War: Vietnam. Unfortunately, while it was a good thing back in 2004 with Soldiers, it is quite the opposite here. Vietnam is a clunky game which could have been so much more but sadly, due to the insistence on using the same engine and gameplay mechanics of the previous games, 1C have created a game which has every quality of the Vietnam War itself. Frustration, futility and regret.
Whereas Assault Squad felt like a step forward for the MoW series in some respects, Vietnam takes two steps back by forgetting what made the previous games great. There is very little environmental destruction, hardly any of the mass battles that MoW is famous for, and a general sense of frustration that makes the game no fun to play. Even as a fan of both the series and of the Vietnam War era in general, it just feels like a waste. Some may find some sense of strange enjoyment from it, but I for one do not. But hey, at least the voice acting was better in this version. That is something right?
Voice acting improved, nice environments in level design
Missions too hard, stealth broken, no competitive multiplayer, no skirmish mode